Swim Lessons: Never Too Careful

. June 2, 2017.
Grayson Rhea, 9 months, at his first ISR session with instructor Kim Moore.
Grayson Rhea, 9 months, at his first ISR session with instructor Kim Moore.

Summer has arrived– a season for barbecues, outdoor play, summer camps, and all sorts of water fun. However, with the excitement of summer activities arrives the prospect of danger, specifically the risk of accidental drowning.

Kim Moore, Infant Swimming Resource (ISR) instructor, shares, “Childhood drowning is the No. 1 cause of accidental death in children under the age of 4. Statistics have shown that boys drown four times more than girls.” Moore relays frightening information, but there are many local resources available to teach children of all ages how to swim.

The Josh Project

Wanda James Butts’ son, Josh, was one of those awful statistics. She faced every mother’s worst fear– the death of her son. In 2006, 16-year-old Josh drowned while rafting on a lake with friends. He did not know how to swim, and he was not wearing a life jacket.

Butts turned her horrendous loss into something positive: she founded The Josh Project, a nonprofit drowning prevention agency. “I could have easily [wallowed in pain], but I believe in a higher being, and my faith in that higher being was how I was able to do it otherwise,” Butts says.

According to a national research study by the USA Swimming Foundation and the University of Memphis, 70 percent of African-American children cannot swim, 60 percent of Hispanic children and 40 percent of Caucasian children. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) cites that African-American children are also three times more likely to drown than their white counterparts, and every day in the United States, approximately 10 people drown.

In Ohio, drownings increased dramatically last year with 13 media-reported fatal child drownings, more than double the number from 2015. Ohio ranks among the top 10 states for child drownings in 2016 and is the highest-ranking northern state.

Butts theorizes that these statistics are so high because “swimming is generational.” Parents can’t teach their children how to swim if they don’t know how themselves. Swimming lessons cost money, and if parents can’t afford lessons and can’t teach their children themselves, then another generation grows up without basic water survival skills.

A positive impact

For the last 10 years, The Josh Project has provided low-cost swim lessons to children in the Toledo area. Butts estimates that they have taught a few thousand children how to swim; her story and The Josh Project have inspired others to create similar programs in other cities.

This year, on its 10th year anniversary, The Josh Project will transition from providing swim lessons to spreading awareness of the imminent dangers of drowning. The project will be a resource for parents because “parents are the first step towards safety because if the parents don’t know how to swim, the kids won’t know,” Butts explains. “I think [the key to decreasing the number of drownings} is education and awareness. We have recently learned that 86 percent of parents do not consider drowning as a real problem for their children. It’s because they don’t know about water safety. I didn’t know that my son should know what to do around water. Parents need to know the importance of water safety in and around water.”


Wanda Butts, founder of the Josh Project, gets ready for a swim.

Never too early to start

One such program for those who are “unskilled in the water” is Infant Swimming Resource (ISR). Kim Moore, ISR instructor, works with all ages– from babies to teenagers and adults– and she teaches lessons from The Aqua Hut on Reynolds Rd.

“Our program teaches children how to survive an aquatic accident if they ended up in the water alone. It is a last line of defense for children; if they break all other barriers–parental supervision, locked gates, pool fences–or fall off a dock, walk into a pond or lake, et cetera,” Moore explains.

The private, one-on-one swimming lessons are customized “to the individual child each time they are in the water.” Lessons are 10 minutes long and are held five days per week for four weeks.

A common misconception is that ISR involves throwing an unskilled child/baby into the water. “We do simulations of children falling in the water to give them the experience. We don’t throw them in the water,” Moore clarifies.

Ashley Glinka, mother of three children– a toddler and two infant twins– enrolled her daughter when she was just under 10 months. “We decided to enroll our oldest in ISR because my husband and I both enjoy water sports, and living on a property with a pond and creek lines, we wanted to ensure that we gave her a skill set for survival should she ever need it,” Glinka says. “After her first full session of ISR, she was competent in the ability to flip to her back and float until being rescued. She can now swim, flip to her back for a breath, and continue to swim until she reaches the wall.”

“After seeing how confident she became in the water because of Miss Kim and ISR, along with the peace of mind my husband and I both have in knowing that she has the ability to not panic and solve a problem if she would– heaven forbid– ever find herself alone in water, it was natural that we enrolled our twins this spring,” Glinka says.

Many other organizations also offer swim lessons, from the YMCA to local high schools, so parents can choose the option and price that works best for their family. According to Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, “Participation in formal swimming lessons can reduce the risk of drowning by 88 percent among children aged 1 to 4 years.”

A day at the pool, on the lake or by the ocean can be a great way to spend your summer days. With the right preparation, you can have plenty of safe and enjoyable fun.

Where can I take swim lessons and learn more?

  • Infant Swimming Resource, The Aqua Hut, 2543 N. Reynolds Rd, Toledo. 248-662-8868. k.moore@infantswim.com. InfantSwim.com.
  • The Josh Project, 2801 W. Bancroft St, MS 420, Toledo. Info@joshproject.org. JoshProject.org.
  • Plummer Pool, 6940 Maplewood Ave, Sylvania. PlaySylvania.com.
    Ages 5 and up. $45 for six 40-minute classes. $30 for four 40-minute classes.
  • Sylvania Northview High School, 5403 Silica Dr, Sylvania. Nvps.net. 3-5 years and 6-12 years. $75/session for residents and $85/session for nonresidents. Available year round (indoor pool). Email nvswimlessons@gmail.com to register.
  • YMCA of Greater Toledo locations: YMCAToledo.org
  • Eastern Community YMCA (indoor, outdoor): 2960 Pickle Rd, Oregon.
  • Fort Meigs YMCA (indoor): Eckel Junction Rd, Perrysburg.
    Francis Family YMCA (indoor): 2000 W. Dean Rd, Temperance, MI.
  • Sylvania YMCA/JCC (outdoor): 6465 Sylvania Ave, Sylvania.
  • West Toledo YMCA (indoor): 2110 Tremainsville Rd, Toledo.
  • Wolf Creek YMCA (indoor): 2100 S. Holland-Sylvania Rd, Maumee.
    Monthly membership is dependent on income. For a family membership, cost ranges from $48-$71/month. Swim lessons are an additional fee, usually $30 for a six-week session. Non-members can sign up for lessons for $80 for a six-week session.